May 30, 2012
When homeowner Jason Brady moved into his Barrie-Ont., home in 2006, he knew the backyard and existing pool would eventually require a renovation due to the cracked concrete surrounding the pool and the aged, faded liner. Another concern was creating a safer environment for his busy 21-month old toddler, who earlier in the summer had figured out how to open the screen door from the house to the backyard. It was estimated the pool was approximately 20 years old. Although the family had enjoyed the kidney-shaped pool in its tired state for three summers, a new leak in the pool’s liner, discovered last spring, made the renovation decision an easy one.
Jason works as a full-time firefighter. As with many in his field of work, he has a second job on his days off. Prior to becoming a firefighter, Jason operated a small landscaping company specializing in interlock stonework, walls and patios. Although he continues to run this company, it is on a much smaller scale, relying on word-of-mouth referrals and utilizing his friends and co-workers when completing large-scale projects.
Through the course of his landscaping business, he has installed a custom inground vinyl pool and completed a pool renovation. With the knowledge and skill set he gained from these projects, Jason decided to undertake his own backyard renovation.
By using some vacation time to clear his calendar for three weeks and enlisting the help of several of his firefighting friends, work began.
The pool’s plastic coping was cracked in various spots, creating jagged edges that could prove hazardous to swimmers, while the concrete pool surround had several cracks from many years of winter freeze/thaw cycles.
The first step in the renovation included the use of a jackhammer to break up the concrete pool surround. This turned out to be more time consuming than planned, as in some spots the concrete was up to 203 mm (8 in.) thick. Ultimately, it took two days to break up and remove the concrete. Finally, the unsightly liner was pulled away and the coping removed.
The pool’s original galvanized-steel panel walls were inspected and determined to be in good shape, allowing them to be re-used. Once the concrete and original coping were removed, the ground surface surrounding the pool was initially prepared using a tamper (a tool with a long handle and flat metal head, used in a ‘stomping’ motion) to create a smooth surface to walk on and work around the pool.
The next step was creating a form that followed the contours of the pool to pour a concrete bench to which new coping stones would be mortared. To do this, several of Jason’s friends assisted by transporting concrete, via multiple wheelbarrow loads, from the mixer truck to the backyard. Once the form was in place, concrete was poured by hand into the frame and allowed to cure overnight.
After the concrete cured, coping stones were mortared onto the bench. A round, bullnose coping was selected for its modern style and comfortable smooth feel that would co-ordinate with other features in the backyard, while also appealing to bathers sitting on the pool’s edge.
The existing in-wall steps in the shallow end were also removed and replaced with new, grey steps to complement the stone coping surrounding the pool and the new liner, which was installed later. Custom-cut, natural flagstone was used around the in-wall steps to further its seamless integration into the design.
To accommodate the additional circulation and plumbing features Jason wanted to include in the renovation, five return lines were installed—two for the existing jets, one for an additional jet to be installed in the shallow end to improve water circulation, another to feed the planned solar heating system and the final line to feed the water feature.
The suction lines from the skimmer and main drain were also replaced with new pipes and an additional suction line was introduced to supply an independent vacuum line to facilitate powerful vacuuming without having to use the skimmer.
With the plumbing lines installed and buried around the pool’s perimeter, the next step was to lay the paving stones. This part of the project, again, required assistance from friends and co-workers to lug numerous wheelbarrow loads of stone from 10 skids in the driveway to the backyard.
Stone placement was completed by Jason to maintain straight lines and a consistent pattern. The installation took two days, while an additional two days were required to install the border stones and cut the numerous edge pieces to create clean lines and curves.
To ensure the new liner fit perfectly, Jason hired a professional to take the multiple measurements of his pool. After recording the measurements, the liner was ordered and was set to arrive in one week.
While waiting for the liner, Jason carried on with the renovation. As the backyard’s existing layout left little room for seating and lounging, a new patio was built behind the house in an area that was once a garden. The addition of this patio added 56 m2 (600 sf) of functional space and provided the perfect place to put a dining table and chairs. The patio flowed naturally from the deck off the back of the house and was set one step above the adjoining, interlocking patio stone pool surround.
A previously unused portion of the yard, between the new patio and wooden fence, was transformed into a play space for his toddler. The area includes an evergreen tree that produces natural shade and relief from the afternoon sun. Branches were trimmed from the lower portion of the tree to allow people to walk beneath it, while the ground was levelled off and covered with wood chips to cushion the terrain underneath the children’s toys and outdoor playground equipment.
With the liner due to arrive, the pool’s steel-wall panels were scraped and cleaned thoroughly, while the concrete floor was completed to ensure a smooth surface for the liner to lie against. This job, however, turned out to be larger than anticipated due to the concrete bits that had fallen into the pool during the demolition stage, along with some mortar that had spilled onto the sides of the pool during the coping stone installation.
When the liner arrived, Jason installed it with help from another friend who owns his own pool company. Timing is extremely important when installing a pool liner; once it is installed it should immediately be filled with water to avoid it from being overly heated and stretched by the sun.
The city truck arrived just in time and accessed the fire hydrant down the street. The liner was draped and placed around the pool and eased into the new, double-channel liner track and immediately filled with water. This liner track was selected to allow a custom winter cover to be used, rather than having to close the pool in the winter using a cumbersome tarp and water bags. By using the fire hydrant, the pool was filled in just over an hour.
With the pool full of water, the next step was cutting through the liner to install the trim for the jets, main drain and skimmer. A light was also added to the shallow end to extend the enjoyment of the pool into the evening hours.
Finally, plumbing lines were installed and run underground to the side of the house. Here, the lines were attached to the exterior of the home and up to the roof to feed the solar panels. As the solar panels were optimally positioned to have southern exposure, it was estimated five panels would be sufficient to heat the pool.
The finishing touches, which included placing decorative rocks and boulders around the pool’s perimeter, also presented some challenges. For instance, the existing ‘diving rock,’ which was rolled out of the construction zone prior to demolition, now needed to be rolled back into place. With his budget in mind, rather than renting a Bobcat to move the rocks, Jason was assisted by his fellow co-workers to tackle this labour intensive part of the project. To move them, they used the time honoured method of laying several steel bars on the ground and using additional bars to move the stones inch by inch.
Additional rocks were also added to the kidney-shaped pool’s inside curve to create a waterfall feature.
The renovation’s final step was converting the old chlorine system to a new saltwater chlorinator, as Jason hoped this would provide a comfortable swimming experience, as well as lower the pool’s day-to-day maintenance requirements.
With the renovation completed, Jason and his family were able to enjoy their first swim in their modern and up-to-date pool before the season ended. This summer, Jason plans to install an aluminum fence around the pool to increase the safety for their toddler.
Jodi Libralesso is a nurse, mom to a busy toddler and a backyard enthusiast
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